Weak, bleary-eyed and hungry, several inmates in a Georgia prison are making a second attempt at staging a hunger strike in efforts to bring awareness to what they call unreasonable and inhumane treatment at the hands of prison guards and officials.
Since June 10, a group of inmates at the Diagnostic and Classification Prison (the same facility where death-row inmate Troy Davis was held and executed in 2011) have refused to eat, demanding access to proper hygiene, medical treatment, the restoration of their visiting and communications rights and access to personal property, says the Black Agenda Report. Many of the men were involved in a previous hunger strike launched in December 2010. Unfortunately the peaceful demonstration was cut short by the brutal beating of inmate Miguel Jackson and others who were allegedly targeted for participating in the protest.
Jackson was severely injured after he was taken to a secluded area without video surveillance at Smith State prison and beaten with a hammer-like object by prison guards. Following the attack, Jackson’s family and lawyers say that prison officials refused Jackson medical attention for months, and today he says he still suffers from splitting migraines as a result of the attack.
Thirty-seven of the men who participated in the original hunger strike were singled out as leaders, and as punishment they were sent to the Diagnostic and Classification Prison, where they were placed in solitary confinement. There, they allegedly endured only restricted access to visits and communication with attorneys for the past 18 months.
“Most of civilized humanity regards extended solitary confinement as a crime,” said Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, according to Black Agenda Report. “We hope that people around the state and around the country will call the prison, the Department of Corrections and Georgia's governor to express their concern for the well-being of the prisoners on hunger strike, and we further hope that they will join us on Monday, July 2 for a day-long fast in solidarity with the Georgia prisoners who are only insisting upon their dignity, their humanity, their legal and human rights.”
Amid the prisoners' many other demands, the issue of solitary confinement looms large over their cause. The practice has come under heightened scrutiny as advocates and former inmates testified before a Senate panel last week about the psychological effects and human rights implications of the practice.
“I lived behind a steel door that had two small slits in it, the space replaced with iron mesh wire, which was dirty and filthy," death-row exoneree Anthony Graves told the Senate panel, after spending 18 years behind bars and the majority of that time in solitary confinement. "Those slits were cut out to communicate with the officers that were right outside your door. There was a slot that’s called a pan hole, and that’s how you would receive your food. I had to sit on my steel bunk like a trained dog while the officers would place the trays in my slot. This is no different from the way we train our pets.”
The inmates’ attorneys now are calling on the Georgia Department of Corrections to follow its own regulations entitling inmates in punitive isolation to a status review every 30 days and insist that such evaluations be made public information.
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(Photo: Birmingham News/Landov)